Sorting the Sunday Pile looks back at the NFL weekend that was. It's also an unofficial Mittens blog.
Matt Cassel Tom Brady
And now, the same guy who was well on his way to earning upwards of $6 million a year in free agency -- at least to hear Peter King tell it -- could begin 2009 like he began 2008: on the bench.
That's not to say Cassel hasn't been a pleasant surprise after unexpectedly being thrust into duty following Brady's season-ending knee injury back in Week 1, just to point out that maybe we should all put down the pom-poms long enough to see how he performs when the Pats aren't facing two teams that combined to win five games a year ago.
I'll admit that there's still a good chance an organization desperate for quarterback help throws some coin Cassel's way, but I also wouldn't be shocked if he ended up signing a modest deal to stay in New England and return to his gig as Brady's understudy. Now, the weather in Foxboro on Sunday was atrocious -- Ben Roethlisberger called them some of the worst conditions he's ever played in -- and that certainly had a lot to do with Cassel throwing for only 169 yards, completing just 49 percent of his passes, and tossing two interceptions without a touchdown.
To suggest he's now a bad quarterback after one poor showing would be wholly unfair. But despite all the media hype in recent weeks, Cassel never was anything more than a great athlete with loads of talent but absolutely no experience. And it's asking too much to think that he can make up for nine years on the bench in just three months. I know, Cassel's numbers are slightly better than Brady's through their first 13 games, but Brady actually played in college. And not only that, compare the 2000 Patriots offensive roster with the 2008 version. The difference in talent you can just about squeeze into the Grand Canyon.
Often overlooked in the conversation about Cassel's progress is the fact that he's playing on a team that blew the doors off virtually every offensive record a season ago. Brady threw 50 touchdowns -- 23 went to Randy Moss -- the Pats scored 582 points, gained 393 first downs, and had 6,580 total offensive yards. Put anybody not named J.T. O'Sullivan in this system and the results would probably be the same: thanks to a schedule softer than Charlie Weis' midsection, New England would win 9-11 games, and likely find their way into the playoffs.
As it stands, they're 7-5 and tied for second place in the division with the Dolphins, one game behind the Jets. The Colts and Ravens currently occupy the two wild-card spots. But with regular season games against the Seahawks, Raiders, Cardinals and Bills, 11-5 is a possibility, and worst case, New England ends the year at 10-6. Not too shabby, really, but also not reason enough to think Matt Cassel is the next coming of Tom Brady.Giants Already Over Plaxico
The media will eagerly point to distractions as the primary reason a winning team suddenly struggles. The most recent example, prior to Plaxico Burress accidentally shooting himself in the thigh, was Spygate.
In September 2007, news broke that the Patriots had illegally videotaped other teams' defensive signals. A firestorm ensued, it followed the team around for the entire season, and all they did was win 17 consecutive games and just missed out on their fourth Super Bowl title this decade. The point: distractions are overrated.
The Giants proved that Sunday. While Burress was peg-legging his way down to the police station to turn himself in, New York was busily manhandling the Redskins. Eli Manning is the engine that makes this offense work, and as long as he's on the field, the Giants have a great chance to win.
Domenik Hixon replaced Burress and although he obviously doesn't possess the physical talents of Manning's one-time favorite target, he can make it through a day without firing a bullet through his leg. That's a start. Hixon also hauled in five passes for 71 yards against Washington, Burress-esque numbers without the hassle.
In the months following their improbable Super Bowl victory, New York has had to overcome the retirement of Michael Strahan and the loss of Osi Umenyiora; the news on Burress is more of an annoyance than a distraction. Luckily, he was too dumb to do any damage, and now that it looks like he'll make a full recovery, the Giants can focus on football. And general manager Jerry Reese can get to work on finding Burress a new home in 2009.
As Peter King said on NBC's Football Night in America, when you break down the contract extension Burress signed at the beginning of the year, "23 out of 27 million dollars ... was all money based on the future. So he's only earned four million dollars this year... There's a $1 million part of money in guaranteed signing bonus due to Plaxico Burress on Dec. 10. The first real test of the Giants' love of Plaxico Burress is gonna be whether they pay him that million dollars 10 days from now."
Silver lining: despite all of Burress' impending legal woes, King things he'll play in 2009. Just not in New York.Suddenly, Jets Don't Look So Hot
So maybe we were all a tad premature in crowning their asses. Look, the Jets reeled off five wins in a row, none more impressive than last week's stomping of the then-undefeated Titans. But that unit didn't show up to the Meadowlands yesterday. It's the NFL, however, and teams lose. But the manner in which it happens usually says a lot about their chances come January.
With that in mind, consider this: the Jets, currently atop the AFC East, are 1-3 against the AFC West. They very easily could be 0-4 if not for a very giving Chiefs squad back in Week 8.
And this is the same Broncos team that was embarrassed -- at home -- against the Al Davis All-Stars seven days ago. Of course, the same could be said of the Jets back on Oct. 19 when they lost to the Raiders in overtime. So here's the question: can a team with losses to Oakland, San Diego and Denver make a deep postseason run?
New York is perfectly position to win the division, and, as the saying goes, anything can happen in the playoffs. But it's hard to have confidence in an outfit that can only win once in four tries against the worst division in the conference.Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action...
... I don't begrudge Chargers general manager A.J. Smith for letting Michael Turner walk. In general, it's a waste of money to give running backs crazy contracts, and the salary-cap dollars often can be better spent. Clearly, there are exceptions, and Turner qualifies. Fine, it happens.
What's more perplexing, however, is Smith's undying loyalty to Norv Turner. It's way too easy blame the Chargers' lost season all on Norval Eugene, but he is the head coach. And stories like this don't exactly dispel the myth that he's an idiot.
According to Smith, Norv ain't going anywhere, which must thrill LaDainian Tomlinson to no end. Here's what the guy who rushed for 24 yards on 14 carries against the Falcons had to say after the game: "It's kinda getting ridiculous, to be honest with you. We had one game in London where we had all these penalties and you figured it was just, you know, a fluke. But when it starts happening again, over and over again, then, you know, you got to look at yourselves and say what's going on."
I think that's Warren Sapp's cue.
... I have no idea what the Browns did to make God hate them so, but it must have been pretty bad.
... Good news: Palmer finally got on the field for the Bengals. Bad news: it was Jordan, not Carson, and he threw a pick-six late in the fourth quarter. More good news: the game had long been decided, so it didn't affect the outcome, even in Vegas.
... I can't imagine anybody watched the Chief-Raiders game, but just know this: Oakland attempted the worst fake field goal in the history of man. Oh, and they lost to the Chiefs, an organization that won their second game in 21 tries.Post-Game Debaclings
Quotes that Emmitt Smith might like...
"The record doesn't show it, but I have great belief in myself."
- Lions head coach Rod Marinelli in the aftermath of a 47-10 drubbing, courtesy of the Titans. On Thanksgiving, no less.
"Obviously, we're in a funk."
- Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, with his nomination for Understatement of the Year
"It's not very good ... I felt a burn, a pain. It's disappointing."
- Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, discussing his knee injury that will likely keep him out the rest of the year
"To have the holder be able to drop the ball, look up, reset the ball, and have them kick it through was very upsetting. Shouldn't have happened ... That kind of set me off, and I started whining about everything. I was on everybody. I was even on myself."
- Redskins head coach Jim Zorn explaining how an early Giants extra point would go on to ruin his Sunday afternoon
"The thing that really got me going was the ESPN analysis and they were all saying we shouldn't get off the plane ... That really got me fired up."
-Broncos running back Peyton Hillis, who rushed for 129 yards against the Jets
Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 13: Matt Cassel Just Got a Lot More Affordable originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 01 Dec 2008 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.